This Past Weekend and The One Before

With summer nearing it's end for the Things we have been crossing off our summer wish list like
nobody's business. 
Two weekends ago the girl Things and Husband Jared and I headed to Taylor Falls for a hike.  The St. Croix river cuts through this park and divides it between two states, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  We had heard there were some beautiful trails and so we set out on one that would take us through both sides of the park, up a bajillion stairs, yes that's a number, and along the old railroad tracks.  It was gorgeous.  Green foliage everywhere we looked, red sandstone cliffs and the sound of the river in our ears. Thankfully we had a picnic lunch before our hike and Polo was properly hydrated.  He tagged along of course.  Not a fan of the many stairs we climbed along the way he had to be encouraged by all of us.  The weather cooperated and we enjoyed being together and exploring more of our new home state. 
 Picnic lunch
 Affectionately referred to by Thing 1 as the
 "they think they're hip" parents photo
 Girl Things and me, Mama, St. Croix river in the background
Thing 4 was on his special trip with Poppi and Nani so he missed out on this fun.  Although from what Nani has written it sounds like they had some adventures of their own.  You can read about them here, Thing 4's Grandparent Adventure.
Thing 1's friend celebrated her sweet sixteen last weekend as well.  I was invited by said friend's Mom to help chaperone.  The two of us may have been more excited than the five teenage girls we were spending the night with.  The plan included dinner out and an overnight stay at a hotel.  Thing 1 and I surprised her friend and decorated the girls' hotel room, there were snacks and late night convos and movies.  And that was just in the "Mom" room.  Not really, although we did surprise the birthday girl with a little diddy of a dance.  Which, thanks to modern technology is on Facebook.  Like I said, we may have had more fun.  These girls are special and it was such a treat to witness their friendship for the night.
Now this past weekend Thing 4 had returned home safely and these 6 Hansons were headed to Stockholm, Wisconsin where our church has a retreat center.  Our small group had planned a quick get away and we were so looking forward to exploring this place.  There is a pool, a barn game room, a farm house, a cottage house, a natural spring, a bunk house with a sports court,  a rock climbing wall housed within a silo and even a chapel.  Not to mention the sledding hill, wild flowers and a chicken coop.  So much to explore and entertain.  I instantly fell in love with the house and it's porch swing.  It was the kind of place where you're invited to sit a spell and just be, soaking in the quietness and awe of God's nature.  Needless to say the Things and their friends were off and running from one activity to the next.  They did stop occasionally to snack or play a quick board game and then it was full steam ahead.  Then it was night time and we had a campfire.  There was talk of star gazing and s'mores with brownie bites since we had no chocolate bars and and a failed attempt at glow bubbles.  Take a look.
Around the campfire, (some of us anyway)
Thing 1 and her bubble buddy
The next day we woke early and were determined to make the most of our last day at the GRC.  There were morning walks to the chapel, lounging on the swing, games being played and fun all around.  Not to mention there were a few kiddos excited to collect some eggs for breakfast from these girls.
The coop
A happy girl with her first egg of the day, I won't soon forget her squeal when she brought it in the house and said, "It's still warm".  Oh the delight.
On this day there was all of the above mentioned and even a synchronized swimming show, oh how we were blessed.  Sharks across the ocean was played, Dads even participated and rock climbing and hill climbing and and and.  Just a sweet day of fellowship all the way around.
 In the girl hide out, as it was affectionately called
 Synchronized swimmers
 Family volleyball
 Rope climbing
There had been whispers of a pie shop in town, a mere four miles or so from where we were.  My friends, that is all it takes is a whisper and we were on our way.  Actually Thing 4 drove us on the country dirt roads and she did great.  Stockholm Pie Co. is where it's at people.  I would make the hour and a half drive for just  a slice of pie.  No additives, homemade, from scratch and they smell, oh the smell was divine.  Our family tried the triple chocolate pecan and it did not disappoint.  Yum, and a special treat for an already special weekend. 
 And now I leave with you a few photos of the Retreat Center and all it's serene beauty.
The cottage house, right next to a natural spring
 Champ, the three legged dog
The barn, turned game room and so much more
 The green house and garden, to the right is a smoke house
Silo, that now houses the rock climbing wall
We have also had all sorts of friend visits and big family dinners at the Hanson household.  This last Sunday Thing 1 and her friend grocery shopped with me, planned a menu and made a delicious dinner for Things 2 and 3 and their friends.  Six girls and Husband Jared and I all around the table, that was a treat.  Giggles and sharing and highs and lows and girl talk.  Good summer memories.  To top off the weekend the girls created brownie waffle sundaes.  Another treat and more fun.  And that is how we began our last week of summer holiday!

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